18 December 2020

Paralympic champion Hollie Arnold speaks about her ‘I’m a Celebrity’ experience, meeting Mo and that ‘MBE’ moment

Athlete Hollie Arnold recorded a double first with her stint on this year’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ - the first Paralympian and disabled contestant to appear on the cult ITV show but then sadly, the first contestant to be evicted from the castle.

She says she was ‘heartbroken’ to leave and ‘wasn’t ready to go’ but was pleased to have had the opportunity to show that having a disability does not prevent you from ‘living life to the full’.

“I miss it already, I had no idea what to expect. I went into the castle with 11 different people and I had no idea their personalities and if they would get on with me,” she told NewsChain from her Loughborough home.

"The beans and rice and the 600 calorie diet wasn’t very fun, especially for an athlete. You know I train every day and the lack of food and potentially good night's sleep and nutrition was tough.

“But it was going in and being yourself, enjoying the time because it’s an incredible opportunity for me."

The 26 year-old javelin star swapped her GB sports kit for camp clothes and entered the Gwrych Castle in North Wales last month and despite a gruelling bushtucker trial crawling in tunnels with insects, she said the experience was ‘amazing’.

"I wanted to show people that yes I do have a missing (right) (fore)arm, it could be a lot worse, it could be even more disabled and I just live my life to the full. 

“I’ve been born with no arm, my mum and dad found out at 20 weeks. If somebody tells me I can’t do it, I will go for it and prove them wrong. 

“I think it’s helped me in life and in athletics, I haven’t become Paralympic champion and won these medals if I didn’t have that feistiness and a winning mindset of ‘you’ve got this’ and 'you can do this’.”

Hollie Arnold decided to take the opportunity and have a break from training

(Hollie Arnold)

The four-time world champion was approached at the end of March about going on the show, but had to wait several ‘anxious’ months before learning she was in.

She said: "When I was selected I had a chat with my coach Dave (Turner) and he said ‘I love it’.

"Obviously with this year’s devastation of the Paralympics not going ahead, I mentally struggled. 

"But for someone who is an athlete and trains day in day out for these major events, it's really hard and it felt like I had no purpose in life.

"I didn't know what to do, training was being messed up. When I had this conversation with Dave he said ‘you have to support yourself’. I’ve dedicated a lot of my life (to sport), I’ve moved around places and I just thought this could be a massive turnaround.

"As much as I missed training (in the castle), my body actually needed a rest. I felt energised to just take that little break from training and I was more excited when I came back. 

“I wanted to throw and train and sometimes you know as an athlete that’s really exciting to have that feeling again. Bring on Tokyo, I’m going to take on the world and that’s kind of how I felt.”

In fact, the break from training made her even more motivated to defend her F-46 javelin title at the postponed Games in Tokyo.

And while in the castle, Arnold created a ‘bond’ with another champion - four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.

She said: "I knew of Mo but I’ve never really spoken to him before. I didn’t know how he was going to be and I didn’t know what his personality was. He was quite shy but at the same time he was cheeky and really funny.

"We had conversations about athletics and what was his favourite moment was or his favourite medal that he had won.

“It was really interesting because I would probably never of had that in-depth conversation and yeah I think it definitely created a bond between Mo and I.”

Arnold, who collected her MBE in 2017, wasn’t ‘ready’ to leave the castle

(Hollie Arnold )

But there was one disappointing postscript to Arnold’s ‘I’m A Celebrity’ experience, a social media backlash to her referencing her honarary title, ‘Hollie Arnold MBE,’ at the start of the show.

She said: "I think there’s nothing wrong with being a bold strong independent woman and I think that’s what people didn’t like about my MBE comment, which is really stupid but there we are.

"It really hurt me and I’m still getting comments on my Instagram.

"People clearly don’t know me. I’m the most down to earth person you will ever meet. I just do sport and that’s what I love.

“I’m not going to let people diminish me and what I stand for. There are better things in life than people saying things about you who don’t know you.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox